Oh, it’s a dated little display of contemporary values, but I loved it! Contemporary at that time, of course. 1948’s Every Girl Should Be Married, with Cary Grant and Betsy Drake.
But there was more. As I kept watching, I couldn’t believe how much has changed in 60 years.
So what seemed familiar in this old-school Girl Goes After Guy (and gets him) story?
We have a predictably pretty female (Drake) who sets her sights on a debonair doctor (Grant). She trots out a variety of ploys which are no surprise, except perhaps in their effectiveness.
Every Girl Should Be Married
As for strategies, there’s the tried-and-true jealousy strategy, for one. Come on now. You know it works. When a man senses that a competitor is sniffing around a woman, he’s suddenly more attracted.
There’s also the “good future wife and mother” scene – complete with beautifully set table and delicious dinner fare.
We have the film’s outright admission that women rely on their feminine “wiles” to set a trap for a mate, and while I might use other terminology, don’t we all know how to put our most marketable faces forward? And more?
We recognize Grant as the committed bachelor, trying to hang on to his freedom for dear life. Drake maneuvers him into pursuing her, while juggling other suitors – the traditional Nice Guy (no, he doesn’t get the girl) and the upper crust Womanizer (a serial remarrier).
Add in the requisite conspiratorial confidantes (girlfriend power), and what has changed?
Film Fantasies = Porn for Women?
Now I’m not saying that this superficial sampling of behaviors runs rampant in my circles, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seen it play out in my post-divorce dating life all these decades after this little movie was made.
There’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes to romance and relationships, many of our attitudes and actions haven’t changed much in the past few generations – despite feminism, post-feminism, and 60 years of so-called progress.
What has changed is the social and economic structure within which these relationships unfold.
So what about our relationship views as reflected by the films we watch? Don’t plenty of us take our cues from what we’re fed by the media – especially when we’re young? Don’t we continue to do so, especially at vulnerable moments, when we zap around on television, settling in with the comfort of a romantic comedy with its ultimate happy ending?
One man I know calls these romance comedies “porn for women” and deems the happily ever after attitude (that culminates in marriage) to be damaging. I may find the reference to romantic comedies as “porn” to be harsh in its phrasing, but is it wrong in its sentiment that too much of this messaging may set us up for disaster? Or is that only true if we can’t distinguish between reality and film fantasy?
Who hasn’t entertained the rescue fantasy at least once or twice? Or does it go down in more palatable fashion if I refer to it as the Cinderella Complex, or a revived, Post-Millennial Princess?
Romance? I’m definitely pro.
But my days of wanting a Prince to ride in and make life “easy” disappeared with the other naive expectations discarded in the teen years. But that isn’t the case for many women. And men?
As for marriage, is it still the norm? Is it genuinely changing, or breaking – in order to eventually evolve? Some of us are no longer choosing to marry, or hoping to refashion what marriage may mean, attempting to tweak (if not discard) the Happily Ever After Myth. Some of us believe that “good” is pretty great, and we don’t seek an idealized version of romantic interaction.
Some of us – the very young? – are actively looking for the perfect picture, blithely (and foolishly?) hoping for the sort of spouse, children, and shared home scenario depicted on screen.
So what do we make of the fact that gender interactions seem so familiar, even when viewing films from 60 and 70 years ago? If we recognize that certain basic behaviors still exist, doesn’t that mean there’s a valid reason? Should every girl be married? Does every man consider marriage a cage, until he’s happily entrapped?
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